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For many Jews, working with Christians on anything is difficult. We can do our jobs when they are around of course, but working with them on specific projects, especially on religious ones or those having to do with supporting Israel, can be very difficult! Where are the lines that we dare not cross lest we be charged with avodha zarah (foreign worship)? Are they really worshipping the G-d?
When Christians say "Praise the Lord" they may intend to praise the same HaShem, G-d of the Torah, that we do, but often they mean "Praise Jesus," who is, to Jews, another god. Sadly, concerning us, Christians often have deeper faith in and love for HaShem than the Jews. How are we to deal with this given their anti-Torah beliefs about His nature and other significant issues?
Many Jews are disturbed that Christians love, support and regularly visit Israel, and yet they continue to do so in ever greater numbers. The Christian community in Israel has more than quadrupled since independence in 1948, from 34,000 to 158,000 in 2012. 2 Most of these Christians are as loyal to Israel as any Jew. Indeed, there are more Christian Zionists than Jewish ones! Nevertheless most Jews remain skeptical of the Christians regardless of what they profess because many, not all, are also trying to convert Jews to their religion and away from Torah. Indeed, Christian missionaries may pose the greatest threat of all to our continuing existence! Talk about a two-edged sword! Many of our greatest friends are also our greatest enemies!Aside from anti-Semitism and Christian replacement theology, many Jews are wary of the fact that many evangelical Christians simply want to convert them to Christianity or speed up the Second Coming of Christ. David Brog, the Executive Director of Christians United For Israel rejects this claim:These Christian leaders should read the e-mails and Facebook posts I regularly receive! Of course this is what many of these Evangelicals are doing! For many Jews, Buddhism is seen as less of a threat. Sects like Jewish Renewal draw heavily from Buddhism and other Eastern religions. For instance consider the book The Jew in the Lotus that describes the visit of former Chabad rabbis turned "BuJew" like Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Many non-Orthodox Jews have no problem infusing their practices with Hindu yoga and forms of the Buddha Dharma, but then argue that there is just something troubling about Jewish-Christian relations. This seems odd since most Christians are monotheists (albeit not by biblical standards) who intend to worship the G-d of Israel, while Buddhists are non-theists who believe in ultimate soul extinction. Certainly many Christian beliefs are different from ours, but they are at least theists and a majority of them today are devoted supporters of Israel.
"Evangelicals who support Israel most certainly do want to convert people. Evangelicals who don't support Israel also want to convert people. The mission of sharing the 'good news' of Jesus Christ is central to being an evangelical. But it is important to note that this is not about converting just the Jews -- Christians want to share their faith with Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and their Christian friends and neighbors who have yet to be born again. The important question is this: Is evangelical support for Israel merely a tool in the effort to convert the Jews? Is this merely some scheme to soften the Jews up so that they can better sell Jesus to them? And the answer to this question is absolutely not. If anything, the opposite it true.Christian Zionists say Jews have no reason to distrust their motives for supporting Israel because they do not believe they can speed up the Second Coming of Christ. In the Gospel of Matthew, it is written that Jesus said about his return, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only." 1
We all understand that back in the day the Church hated us and sought to destroy us again and again. They reviled us, persecuted us, and sent millions of us to our deaths. We know this. But that is not the case today. Today Islam is in that role and they used to be our supporters against the Christians. For many Jewish parents their greatest fear is that their child will convert to Christianity, thus abandoning the eternal Covenant both for themselves and the generations that will emerge from them. This is certainly understandable and we all pray that HaShem will protect our young people from this serious threat. We must fight to protect every Jewish soul from the missionary distortions. But this does not make enemies of our friends. We need balance.
The way Jews have historically dealt with such concerns can be summed up by paraphrasing the Anatevka Rabbi in Fiddler on the Roof:
May G-d bless and keep the Church..... far away from us!
But just like in little Anatevka, the world around us is changing. We no longer live in Jewish shtetls. We don't even live in semi-isolation in cities surrounded by the Gentiles. Today we live in Cyberspace where interactions between diverse people exists as never before in human history! Open up a Facebook page and comment that you are Jewish. Soon you will be invited by Christians overflowing with questions about Yiddishkeit. "Why do you do this? What do you believe about that? Why don't you accept Jesus?" And more and more frequently, "How can I become a Jew or Noahide?"
This would have been unthinkable before the current generation! Sure, we also get the Christian and Muslim missionaries and neo-Nazis threatening us with eternal damnation; we expect that. But most of us are still amazed by how many Christians who express no interest in converting us, simply wish to declare their love and loyalty to Israel, and for US! Why us? Just because we're Jews. Amazing! We are used to being hated just for being Jews, but to be loved for it? How are we supposed to deal with this! All too often we reject it out of hand.
Some of us accept their contact requests and do what we can to answer their questions, to show gratitude for their stated commitment to Israel and to us. If these people can be believed, if anti-Semites come after us we will have our pick of thousands of of hiding places among Christians! Should we reject their offers of friendship and support? Should we refuse to clarify our views when they sincerely ask? Surely not.
I am not naive and no Jew can afford that luxury; not all of these people are sincere. Many Christians however are seriously seeking the foundation of their Christian faith, and that foundation is first century Judaism. Yeshua/Jesus was a Jewish reformer. Sadly, others are seeking to infiltrate these "righteous among the nations" Christians in order to sow seeds of diabolical replacement theology whereby they seek to steal our identity as Jews. This is nothing new. Yeshua's talmid (disciple) John warned about such people:"I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.A Jew must be careful when dealing with Christians! This has always been true. What is different today is the massive number of Christians seeking conversion into Judaism and/or to adopt and adapt our ways to their own observances. This is unique.
Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. 3
Historically the rabbis have made conversion very difficult. After all, we do not believe anyone needs to convert into Judaism to please G-d. Observing the seven laws is much easier that observing 613 and is equally valid! And besides, being essentially a kind hearted people we are hesitant to put people in a position where the next pogroms, the next Shoah, would engulf them as it will us, may HaShem protect us all, simply for being Jewish. Conversion to Judaism is a very big deal on many levels!
So then, we have historically maintained a workable status quo. "You be a Christian and we'll be Jews. Be nice to us and we will be grateful and assist your communities as we can. With mutual respect everything will be alright. Its all good." This policy has worked fairly well throughout the past 2000 years whenever the Church has been willing to accept it.
But then comes Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, and other leading authorities who realize that the times have changed and that we need to adapt our thinking. Many of these authorities are convinced that the coming of Melech HaMashiach ben David is is upon us. While this belief is common in Christian circles generation after generation, it is rare in Jewish ones among our leaders. Nonetheless,On Wednesday afternoon, two of the greatest rabbis of the generation met and discussed how very close the Messiah is, and how Christians and Muslims have an important role to play in that process. 1Unheard of! Unthinkable! Its one thing for Jews on Social Media to assist non-Jews in understanding Judaism and their historic relationship to it -- and where their beliefs violate Torah -- but its quite another for someone of Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch and Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky's stature to make such a statement!Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch,Vice-President of the Rabbinical Court and the Head of the Edah HaChareidis in Jerusalem, paid a rare visit to Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky at his home in Bnei Barak. They are two of the most prominent Torah figures alive today. Conversations between such great men have enormous significance and the Hebrew-language website Kikar Shabbat recorded the dialogue between these two great rabbis. 1Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, the Steipler Gaon, like Rabbi Moshe Sternbuch, is widely considered a leading authority in Heredi (Ultra-Orthodox) Jewish society and the author of numerous widely praised books on Jewish halacha (law). Their judgements carry a lot of weight.Rabbi Kanievsky said that troubles were to be expected. "It is the days before Messiah," he explained.Both renown rabbis, and many other Orthodox and traditional authorities, are now convinced that the coming of Melech HaMashiach is very very near. Other rabbis and authorities are not so certain. There is also the question of the coming of Mashiach ben Yosef prior to the coming of Mashiach ben David. Will he come first? There are many thus far unanswered questions about the coming reign of the King of Israel.
Rabbi Sternbuch agreed. "In the End of Days, those who fear G-d will despair and their hands will loosen from fighting G-d's war against the sinners, and there will be no one to rely upon except G-d," he said, adding, "We have to bring the Messiah."
Rabbi Kanievsky answered that the Messiah should be arriving in the very near future. He quoted the Talmud (Megillah 17b) again, saying, "In the year after shmittah the Son of David will come." 1
The focus of this piece is not on such apocalyptic possibilities. Our focus here is what these great Jewish authorities said next!Rabbi Kanievsky insisted that the Messiah was indeed coming in this year [i.e. 2016-2017]. He opened the Talmud folio (Ketubot 112b) that contained the prediction and began to read out loud to Rabbi Sternbuch.So, these rabbinic authorities are saying that the Talmud foretold the current influx of Christians into both Israel and as supporters of Judaism. This is truly miraculous.
Rabbi Sternbuch considered this and responded with a different source.
"We have an ancient authenticated hand-written manuscript from the Rambam (a Spanish Torah authority from the twelfth century), in which he says that before the coming of the Messiah, the Christians and the Ishmaelites (Arabs) will come to Israel," he pointed out.
The manuscript the rabbi referred to is a recent version of the Rambam's Mishnah Torah, recently published with restored sections censored by medieval Christian authorities. 1
To what degree will this continuing influx impact Judaism, Israel, and the coming of Melech HaMashiach ben David?Rabbi Kanievsky continued reading in the Talmud, which described yet another aspect of the days preceding the Messiah.Here then is the difficulty. Both Christianity and Islam claim a direct decent from our Patriarchs. Both accept our Torah, although both have radically different interpretations of it. Clearly the rabbis are not recommending the creation of a single religion composed of Jews, Muslims, and Christians, however they do seem to be recommending growing cooperation between the three great religions. How could this benefit Judaism? Reading these words I am reminded of the following prophecy of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.
"In the days to come, all the non-fruit bearing trees in Israel will bear fruit." Rabbi Kanievsky explained, "When the Messiah comes, everyone will repent, and the people that ‘didn't bear fruit' will bear fruit and learn Torah."
Rabbi Kanievsky seemed to be saying that in the Messianic era, Christians and Muslims will be a source of Torah learning – and this phenomenon is appearing as well. Many movements in Christianity are beginning to seek out their roots in Torah and Judaism. 1
Great atheism is coming to the world as a test from on high. The world's many sins are causing a terrible lack of faith. Happy is the person who stays firm in his faith in these times.Looking around the Jewish world today we certainly see many examples of our rabbis and other leaders failing to uphold Torah. Far too many among the Orthodox routinely reject those who come to them seeking HaShem. As a direct result of this rejection of their Torah obligations (as stated at Exodus 19:6) they are causing these people to look to the non-Orthodox for their conversions and training. These sincere converts are thereby placed in a position in which they and their descendants will forever be rejected as Jews by the Orthodox. Due to their "piety" these rabbis are pushing sincere people away from Torah observance!
The fact that I am predicting this will not prevent the increase of Godlessness and confusion. Long ago Daniel and others made it known that this would happen in the days before the Mashiach. "Many will purify themselves and be refined, and make themselves shining white. But the wicked will do evil. and only the wise shall understand" (Daniel 12:10 ).
Knowing that this has already been foreseen, it would seem that it should not be such a great trial for people to remain strong and firm in their faith. But the truth is that even though the prophets made this known long ago, it will still be a great trial. Many will fall by the way , and that is why it is written: "the wicked will do evil."
I am revealing this for the sake of the few pure souls who will remain firm in their faith. They will certainly face great battles even in their own minds. But when they see that this has already been predicted, it will give them greater strength and encouragement.
~ Sichot Haran #35
Many Jews are so blinded by the New Age interpretations of Kabbalah that they deny the very existence of the Holy One! They conceive of HaShem as an impersonal Star Wars like "Force," similar to the Buddhist and Hindu Netti-Netti conception, even though the G-d of the Bible declares "I Am" in very personal if inconceivable (Ain Soph) terms.A person's main goal should be to do good and serve G-d without sophistication. Every good and holy thing can be done with absolute simplicity. One can study much Torah, do much good, and spend much time in prayer, all without sophistication at all. a The Rebbe continually warned us to always be happy. Much of this discussion is recorded in his holy works.b However, there were countless other times that he discussed this.
-- Rebbe Nachman's Wisdom, Page 121, point 19
aShevachay 13, Lekutey Moharan B 5:15, 19, 44; Sichos Moharan 30b).
b Lekutey Moharan 222, B 19, 44
Many synagogues boast that among their offerings are yoga classes, white light mediations, creative visualization groups and similar things. Such practices all belong to other religions, not to Judaism.
I have even personally heard a popular rabbi suggest, in the synagogue during services, that the Jewish people should throw the Torah away ("throw it in the corner") along with all the other human wrought idols! Others publicly reject the accuracy of the Torah and say its nothing but ancient stories and fairy tales for the gullible. Many Jews today are actively supporting political agendas that have the stated intention of wiping Israel off the map!
We hear disturbing stories of a rabbi drilling a hole in the wall of the mikveh in order to watch women in the sacred bath. We hear of permitted child and spousal abuses in certain Heredi communities. Some stone women for exposing their arms or condemn them for wearing tallit These are not the norm to be sure, but they are too often heard as we as a people move farther and farther away emunah in HaShem alone.
Far too many Jews, from Heredi so-called "True Torah Jews," to Reform Temple deniers, to heretical BuJews, to hyper-exclusionary rabbinic sectarianism, to Jewish supporters of J-Street and the BDS movement, and so on are rejecting the very hope that empowered the Jewish People's survival through the historic persecutions, pogroms, the Shoah, and so many other attempts to destroy our people from the face of the earth. We are so divided! As the Chofetz Chaim warned us:Our Sages state: "Jerusalem was destroyed only because its inhabitants limited their decisions to the [letter of the] law of Torah" (Bava Metzia 30b). This seems difficult, for Scripture records many sins of which that generation was guilty.The problems within Judaism today are endless and the minimal level of Jewish emunah (active faith/trust in HaShem, the One G-d of Israel) should be deeply disturbing to us all. In most cases it does not seem to be. Our people at large seem to be intent on rushing away from the principles of Torah and towards destruction as surely as a moth rushes into the flames.
Our discussion sheds light on the matter. Had the people overlooked the wrong caused them, then HaShem would have forgiven them as well. However, they were absolutely unrelenting toward each other, demanding from one another whatever they could possibly extract according to the law -- and Heaven judged them accordingly. 4
While Christianity has similar problems, the growing number of Christians who are adapting themselves to Torah observance is historically amazing. When these people gather and exhibit deep and abiding emunah, when they raise their hands in heartfelt worship, tears flowing from their eyes, for Israel and the Jewish people, we Jews should take notice! After 2000 years of exile the Jewish people are tired. Our people were invigorated with the rise of the modern Zionist movement in the 1800's and the re-birth of the nation in 1948, but now? Even those Orthodox Jews who opposed the establishment of the nation prior to Messiah had to realize that the Jews were awakening to the possibility of freedom and independence at long last.
But then came the two world wars and the Shoah We were severely wounded as a people by these horrific events. Where was HaShem? How could He allow such a terrible tragedy to happen to His people? About half of the Jews were slaughtered! Maybe faith in HaShem was just a dream, worse, a lie! These were largely religiously observant Jews who suffered and died. So many of the survivors lost their emunah. We still have no good answer to the question: WHY.
With the re-birth of Israel many of the next generation saw a return to emunah, but still the doubts persist. So many Jews today doubt HaShem's existence, let alone His concern and protection of His people. He did not protect our parents and grandparents, they reason, so why think He will be faithful to us today? This is a common and understandable sentiment. Many, such as the Reform Movement, reject the concept that we are the Chosen People. They view our people are merely a small ethnic group that was lucky enough to survive into modern times. There is no specifically "G-d of Israel" they say. There is only a universal impersonal Force that seems largely unconcerned about human pain and sufferings. Such Jews, wanting what they feel they have lost, are prime candidates for avodah zarah and the missionaries are taking advantage of this hunger.
Of course many Jews still maintain the faith of the Patriarchs. Many stand firmly with HaShem and His Torah as being not only relevant but essential to our continued survival. Many Jews deeply and sincerely believe in the G-d of Israel and His direct intervention in our lives. But many more do not.Rabbi Kanievsky seemed to be saying that in the Messianic era, Christians and Muslims will be a source of Torah learning – and this phenomenon is appearing as well. Many movements in Christianity are beginning to seek out their roots in Torah and Judaism. 1
I believe that these esteemed rabbis are saying that the time has come for religious Jews to work shoulder to shoulder with religious Christians to inspire members of both religions and beyond to seek HaShem and to work for the rectification of our beleaguered planet. This conviction resides at the heart of my work with Noahides. From the Muslims we should learn to place HaShem first. He is One. He should be the central focus of our lives as Jews. Their devotion to their belief system should inspire us to reclaim our own. From the Evangelicals and Messianic Christians we should re-learn the power of the love of G-d and active faith in Him. And we should offer them information and assistance on embracing biblical, Noahide observance.
As Jews we must stand firmly in our historic faith in HaShem. We must embrace the Torah of HaShem with the understanding that many of these Christians are sincere in their desires to serve the G-d of Israel and His Elect. We can learn from other religions where we as Jews have "gone off the rails".
Concerning our doctrinal differences, we must agree to disagree. Mutually respectful conversations and studies are great, but missionizing is destructive of unity. When Mashiach ben Yosef and Melech HaMashiach ben David arrive we all know the Truth. Until then we are ALL acting according to limited understanding. We must be humble enough to learn and firm enough to stand for the truth as we understand it.
When will the Messiah come? I don't know. No one does.
Our sages tell us: If you are working in your garden and hear that the Messiah is in the town square, finish your gardening, then go see him.
We each have our own service to perform. As we do our jobs, the Messiah will do his. Let us work together as the children of G-d in this splendid Garden of HaShem to heal our broken world. If the Messiah comes in our lifetime we will welcome him together, whoever he is. If he does not, then we will meet him in the Olam Haba, B"H.
- Major Rabbi Predicts Christians Will Be Source of Torah in Coming Days of Messiah -- this piece can also be read here: HERE.
- breakingisraelnews.com. This number has probably doubled between 2012 -- -- this piece can also be read here: HERE.
- Revelation 2:9, 3:9
- Chofetz Chaim, A Lesson a Day, page 73
- For more on Romans chapter 11 see my study It is not you that bears the root, the root bears you!
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